Let’s face it, nowadays your business has to have a web presence if it wants to stay relevant and competitive.
However, if you’re not a seasoned professional when it comes to finding a project partner that can help you achieve your vision, many businesses can be unsure about where to begin. You know your current website isn’t cutting it. You’ve been given the green light to search for a design agency, but you have no clue where to start.
We come across these businesses all the time, so we thought we’d outline the 9 things you need to have prepared before reaching out to a web design and development agency. Doing these things ahead of time will ensure that you spend less of your time gathering information after initial contact, which will speed up the process and make you a more attractive prospect.
1. Know the problem(s) you’re trying to solve.
Any quality web design company will be able to point out a few areas where your business could improve it’s online presence. Whether it’s a better designed site, more targeted and easier to understand copy, or even simply switching to a faster and more reliable host; all of these things can add value to your offering.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that no web design company is going to understand your business better than you do at the outset. A great potential client comes through the door and knows their basic pain points, even if they don’t understand the technology. Outline your problem areas as concisely as you can and include them in your initial communication.
2. Know your target audience
It’s critical to understand the type of people who will be visiting your site. More than likely you’re not trying to appeal to everyone, so you need a targeted approach.
It’s critical to understand the type of people who will be visiting your site.
Are you a real estate company that needs to appeal to both property buyers and sellers, as well as agents? Are you a construction company who needs to not only attract new customers, but also serve as a resource directory for approved contractors? Knowing who your target audience is can be extremely valuable to your potential web design partner. This means they can hit the ground running, tailoring a solution that will appeal to specific customers and user flows.
3. Scope out your competition
Just like no one knows your business better than you, you’re probably also intimately familiar with your competition. It’s a good idea to make a list of your top three competitors to send over to the web design company you’re evaluating. This will give them a sense of who you’re up against and also help them become more familiar with your industry. They’ll know immediately how to help you stand out once they assess your competition’s overall design, features, and performance.
Most businesses need a new site yesterday. Many of them haven’t been proactive in managing their online presence, so when they finally turn their focus to it, it’s an emergency. That’s a huge red flag when an agency is evaluating you as a potential client. They know they’ll start the project immediately behind the 8-ball. Instead, it’s better to set a reasonable timeline for completion and let the web design agency advise you on whether or not it’s realistic.
Bring your needs to a web design company early. They can help set a realistic project scope, timeline, and execution plan.
Depending on your scope, we’d recommend selecting an agency at least 2-3 months before you need your project completed. Be sure to let them know if you have any driving factors behind the date that you choose. Many clients need something completed before a trade show or before their existing budget approval runs out at the end of the year. Whatever the reason, be sure to be up front and set expectations so you don’t waste your time going down a path that’s unnecessary for both parties.
Everyone is always afraid to talk about their budget. They shouldn’t be, but it comes with the territory of working in a service-based industry.
A lot of potential clients are afraid to share budget information because they feel like it might let the web design agency charge them more than they typically would. Most respectable agencies wouldn’t do that, but we understand the concern clients have. For some clients, updating their web presence is the biggest marketing expenditure they’ll have, and therefore they’re going to be nervous—especially if they aren’t familiar with the web. However, sharing budget information early can save everyone a lot of time.
Let’s say you have a modest budget of $10,000. If you don’t share that information with the agency up front, they could put several hours into developing a proposal for you only to find out that their quote is $25,000 over your maximum. Instead, when you share your budget upfront, an agency can usually let you know right away if they can help or not—well before time is wasted for both parties.
The bottom line is, if you’re upfront about your budget, the potential web design company has the ability to offer solutions tailored to your needs.
6. Know the approval structure in your company
The best projects are typically ones where you’re working directly with the stakeholder on the client’s side. It enables you to iterate rapidly and get sign off quickly. When the key stakeholder isn’t involved in the day-to-day happenings of a project, it slows everything down.
This is because decisions have to be re-explained to the higher-ups, which can ultimately lead to additional revisions. In those cases, you can expect an estimate from an web design agency to be higher in order to account for the lost time that inevitably occurs.
7. Know your current site setup
If you’re starting from scratch you can skip this one, but if you have a site already, you should know and have access to where the domain is registered and hosted. Knowing how your web site or application was developed will also help your agency of choice figure out if they have the skills to modify the existing codebase or how they’ll export your data to build a new solution from the ground up.
You should know and have access to where the domain is registered and hosted
8. Current assets
In addition to having access to your current site, it’s helpful if you have access to key source files and brand guidelines for your company. For example, not having the source asset for your logo can severely limit your new agency’s options in ways they can use it within a new design. Photo originals, like team pictures or office shots, can also help your web design agency use them in creative ways without having to spend more time and resources to obtain new photography.
9. A list of 5 sites you like and why
This is an exercise we always ask new clients to put together before we take on a project. The list is a great way to get an initial sense of the type of design aesthetic and interactions a client may be looking for in their new project. They could be competitor sites or sites from a different industry entirely, but it forces you to think about what you like and don’t like—which in turns provides a starting point for your new agency to work with.
Follow these steps and you’re sure to pick a winner
It’s always a big decision when choosing a web design company to work with. We hope you found this checklist helpful and that you can apply it to your decision making. If you ever need more information or would simply like to talk more about selecting a web design company, we’re all ears. Leave a comment below or get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cheers!